This week, I participated in the 2022 MALAT Virtual Symposium at Royal Roads University (RRU) as part of the Master in Educational Technology degree program. Before I get into it, let me first thank everyone who worked hard to create and support the RRU Virtual Symposium. There is a plethora of excellent content in the virtual symposium archive, and most of the presenters are credible and well-established experts in the educational technology field. Overall, I enjoyed digging into the RRU Virtual Symposium. This was the first time I watched content from the Virtual Symposium, even though I am nearing the end of the MALAT program. Now that I reflect on this experience, having completed most of the MALAT program before watching the Virtual Symposium caused both positive and negative effects on my viewing experience.
Watching as a Near-Completion Student
On the one hand, much of the material presented was familiar to me since I had studied educational technology for the past two years, allowing me to walk away with more meaning-making than if I were new to the program. To an extent, I could anticipate what the presenters would say, which allowed me to contemplate the information at a deep level. I could connect many of the theories and perspectives I have learned throughout the program to the presentation content, which helped me understand concepts that underpin the presenter’s viewpoints. On the other hand, since I had read, heard, or experienced many of the presentation topics already – aside from student presentations – my level of engagement was perhaps less than what it would have been at the program’s start.
Two years ago, I was so eager to dig into new content, and a new degree program that watching recordings and live presentations of talking heads, discussion panels, and PowerPoint slides would have been immensely satisfying. I was a keener back then, like most new graduate students; however, after learning about the EdTech field for the past two years, I found many presentations repetitive. After watching a few of the recordings, to be honest, I felt myself wanting to rush through them and could sense my cognitive engagement slipping. This led me to reflect on the importance of adding variety in the design of multimedia learning presentations to accommodate inclusivity in online education.
Inclusivity & Instructional Design
I love that inclusivity was a central topic of the virtual symposium since it is so apparent in the EdTech literature and current K-12 and higher education trends. It’s pretty simple: Education must be made to be more openly accessible so that more people worldwide can become educated (Cormier, 2017), and instructional design must continue to evolve along with diverse learners and technology. Veletsianos (2021) said different designs work for different people at different times and situations, depending on various factors. Now it helps that Veletsianos was one of my favourite instructors in the MALAT program because he is so incredibly knowledgeable. Still, his point reigns particularly true to me personally as a MALAT student. My taste in educational content – specifically Zoom-style discussion panels – has drastically changed throughout my time in the MALAT program; what captivated my attention at the start of the program no longer does as a near-completion student.
I felt most engaged watching the presentation entitled “PowerPoint improv” (2021). This presentation was captivating to me because it revealed the personality of the presenters and injected natural humour throughout. The content was consistent with current EdTech trends, valuable, and compatible with the other presentations, but it was delivered in a unique way that set it apart from the norm. PowerPoint Improv is a perfect example of how you can create content that caters to specific learning styles without the need for any fancy EdTech or production tools. The presentation was still talking head style with narration, but it was captivating, at least to me.
So what am I trying to say with all of this? I learned that although inclusivity in online learning is a highly trending topic, more emphasis needs to be placed on sharing actionable design strategies that accommodate student engagement. Inclusivity in ID goes far beyond respecting diversity, enabling participation, and removing barriers; it also has to consider actionable measures to accommodate student engagement by addressing learners’ evolving needs and preferences.
I argue the notion that ID should be an exclusive and paid position for all higher education institutions rather than being part of a term instructor’s to-do list and that more can be done to support ID technical competency training in the RRU Virtual Symposium. As Meyers et al. (2022) argue, utilizing EdTech in ID offers designers an effective means to foster diversity; however, I argue this is easier said than done. For instance, creating an instructional video that can rival the technical competencies of today’s social media, like Youtube tutorial videos, is time-consuming, mentally challenging, and requires significant technical expertise. I would have like to see more presentations that deliver actionable strategies to address learner engagement and various techniques to improve multimedia learning design, rather than just talking about the need to address inclusivity in general terms while avoiding technological disruption. Perhaps future instances of the RRU virtual symposium could incorporate a blend between panel discussion and examples of innovative uses of EdTech.
Childs, E. & Veletsianos, G. (2021, April 15). PowerPoint improv [Video]. Blackboard Collaborate. https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback/load/c5e490c22efb40a5aeacf457516237a1
Cromier, D. (2017, April 18). Intentional messiness of online communities. [Video]. Royal Roads University. https://malat-coursesite.royalroads.ca/lrnt521/recordings/dave-cormier-virtual-symposium-presentation/
Meyers, M., Veletsianos, G., & DeVries, E. (2022). Instructional Design In & After COVID-19 [YouTube Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJKfV4QphYc